Today we were given an opportunity to travel in groups wherever we wanted. Our group formed a nine person alliance, strolling through Berlin like the Red Army in 1945. The group decided to return to the Brandenburg Gate for photos and further exploration. From there we meandered over to the American embassy in a pursuit of some national pride. After several pictures and cursory glances from the security guards, we departed for the site of Hitler’s demise, the Führerbunker. The location has been paved over and the only sign of the bunker is a literal sign for the bunker. It was odd juxtaposing such a significant historical site with the view of a full parking lot and several trees. For me, the decision to destroy the bunker and prevent the creation of a rallying point for future Nazis was a fascinating and well planned long term investment for the German people. The site itself was not impressive in any regard, which was perfect.
Embassy of The United States of Am[erica] (Source: Jennifer Fraunberger)
After leaving the site, encountering two blocks of construction, almost trespassing at two schools, walking 500 miles and 500 more - we finally arrived at the Topography of Terror. The museum stands in the footprint of the former SS headquarters and details the rise and fall of Hitler’s secret police. We only really had time to explore the timeline outside of the museum which depicted such events as book burning, executions, and the acts of terror done by Hitler’s enforcers. We did not get to go inside the museum as we had to leave for our next meeting with a very special friend -- food. Chris and I tried dürüm doner for the first time and it was both delicious and cultural. The pretzels we got at a street cart were not so delicious and cultural. They were stale and not at all like the Bavarian ones we had expected.
The Topography of Terror (Source: Chris Minitelli)
In the early afternoon we met with Reichstag member Harald Leibrecht. Herr Leibrecht is the Federal Government Coordinator for Transatlantic Relations as well as a good friend to The College of New Jersey. Our meeting touched on German-American relations, current events, and the complexity of the German political system. We proceeded to go outside and have a fantastic view of the Reichstag building and the governmental center of Berlin. Our time with Harald Leibrecht came to a close with a quick view of the committee meeting rooms. This then left us time to hunt down ice cream and the Chancellor before our tour of the Reichstag. Alas, while the quest for ice cream was successful, our heart felt pursuit of Angela Merkel was in vain.
We then explored the Reichstag and learned about its reconstruction efforts. The building is beautiful and still contains historical graffiti from the Soviet liberators of Berlin. Much was learned about the function of the parliament and we were given the opportunity to sit in the observation deck of the actual Reichstag floor. Ultimately, we departed from our tour guide and all proceeded to the roof of the building. We were able to climb the dome and enjoy a picturesque view of Berlin.
The Reichstag (Source: Wikimedia)
The day ended with a lovely dinner in Plotsdamer Platz. The main group of students split up into three subgroups with our five people heading to a German restaurant. Our quest for spätzle came to an end with a delicious meal of Zwiebelrostbraten mit hausgemachten Spätzle. After some stories and bonding between the five students and the two professors, we headed back to the hostel. The day ended with an evening of cards, jokes, and a bit of actual work. Berlin is a wonderful, fascinating, and often very odd place to visit.
~ Jonathan Dowler